Dear Ministry Partners,
It is hard to believe that November is already here and with it the winter months closing in quickly. In our last letter we were making plans for my departure to Asia Pacific. Little did I know at that time what was in store for me on this trip.
I arrived Asia Pacific on September 22. Much of my first week there was taken up formatting our Old Testament Scripture portions and getting them ready for the press. I also enjoyed opportunities over meals and during the evening hours to spend some time with a number of our missionaries living in town.
On Friday evening September 28, I was invited out to eat at our Wana boy’s dorm, and looking forward to an evening with them and their dorm parents. I departed our mission home that evening just before 6:00 in our mission mini van headed that way. I was about half way there when all of a sudden, the van began to shake uncontrollably. It felt like big waves hitting one after another and rocking me back and forth like a little boat on a large lake. I came to an abrupt stop and noticed that a fellow across the street had upset on his motorcycle. I quickly realized that I was in the middle of a powerful earthquake and learned later that it was originally rated at a magnitude of 7.7!
Power went out immediately and cell phone service was quick to follow. Many houses, hotels, and other buildings came crumbling to the ground. Just a few minutes after the tremendous shake a 20-foot Tsunami wave hit the North side of the city which borders the bay. Then shortly thereafter the land under three neighborhoods located on the south and west sides of town began to move carrying houses and trees for hundreds of yards, sucking them and their occupants under in the liquified soil. I quickly returned to the mission home which I had just left to find that the brick fence walls all the way around the house had been flattened, and while the house was still standing it was badly damaged. We had a little over 100 people affiliated with our own group living in town at the time but thankfully none of us were seriously injured.
For the next three nights we all “slept” (NOT) outside as aftershocks continued to hit one after another. Food, water, and fuel became very scarce and looting began on the 2nd day. On the third day we began evacuations. We foreigners were evacuated by military C-130 to a city to the south where we would spend the week trying to catch our breath and in debriefs.
A week after the quake we sent a relief team in to start working with our pilots in giving relief aid to the affected areas. The helicopter has proved invaluable in getting supplies back into areas that could not be reached in any other way. Relief continues as I write this letter and will continue into the future for many months to come. Many of my plans were interrupted by this tragic event so I ended up coming back to the USA two weeks earlier than planned. Even though our team has been a bit scattered I continue to stay in touch with them as we make plans for our school children and make a way for them finish out the school year. With power and communications now restored we have spent many hours on the phone, skype, and WhatsApp working on a ministry strategy for the coming months. In all this we are claiming Romans 8:28 and already seeing ways in which God is using this to His honor and glory.
Jeanne and I want to again take this opportunity to thank you so much your prayers for our ministry with the Wana people. Thank you for being a vital part of our team as we persevere together to expand the reach of the gospel to the people in Asia Pacific.
May God richly bless,
Ed & Jeanne Casteel